A show of hands from those in this audience of one

RefWorks (logo)So I decided that I didn’t have enough on my plate and took over the role of RefWorks Administrator at the Leonard Lief Library. And, actually, it’s quite a peaceful gig, considering how underutilized this tool is on my campus. (Approximately 3.8% of faculty have created an account in RefWorks. The figure for students is at a dismal 1.6%.) However, I want to turn that around. Everyone on campus — especially those involved in research, such as graduate students and junior faculty — should know about this citation management tool.

Informing the masses, however, is an ambitious undertaking. That means that I have to offer training workshops and market them strategically (hitting up deans, chairs of departments, faculty listservs, library liaisons; putting up posters in high-traffic areas; distributing flyers; reaching out to the writing center; teaming up with the faculty commons; et cetera). And then, y’know, I have to actually teach the workshops. (Remember how terrified of teaching I am?) I don’t expect tremendous turnouts so I’m actually not quite so freaked out about teaching these sessions. I am, however, struggling to figure out the best approach to teaching them.

I’m quite aware that these workshops have to be interactive and hands-on. (How else do you learn to use a tool other than by using it?) However, even the most useful tool won’t be exciting unless the user has an interest in learning it. So how does one make learning RefWorks fun?

Very serendipitously, a message came through one of my subscribed listservs (ILI-L) today: “How do you make RefWorks fun?” My favorite response so far:

I always start by showing them how RefWorks can be used to create bibliographies or works cited lists. I use a folder that has quite a long list of citations in it and then ask the students how long they think it would take them to create a properly formatted list of x number of citations and also share with them that I think it would take me about a minute each.

So I think that’s the tactic I’ll use: prepare a folder of 50+ citations and automagically generate a bibliography at the beginning of class. That should turn some heads and pique some interests, yes?

Do you teach RefWorks on your campus? How do you make it fun/interesting/relevant? How is RefWorks advertised/marketed at your library/college?


Maura A. Smale 2011-01-12 Reply

Fun is hard, esp. with RefWorks. :) But I’ve found that faculty are *really* interested even when you save the automagicalness for the end of the workshop. Importing citations from databases is another “oooh!” moment. It just saves so so so much time compared to the way many of us old fogies used to do it back in the day.

We haven’t really advertised RefWorks to students at City Tech so we don’t have many student users either. I’m not sure that we’re going to, though — I feel like most of our students aren’t doing the kind of in depth research that really lends itself to a citation management system. But maybe I’ll reach out to honors students in the future.

Let us know how the marketing and workshops go!

Alevtina Verbovetskaya 2011-01-13 Reply

That’s what someone from the writing center said to me: “Just tell them that it will make their lives easier.” Which is funny because making the bibliography is easy (and even fun!) for me, so RefWorks actually creates more work for me >_< But I know that I'm in the minority and that most people hate the tedium of creating & listing citations.

Again, this is probably just a lack of confidence in my own teaching skills. I'm so afraid that they'll all be bored to tears in the classroom and walk out on me. (I had a dream — nay, nightmare! — that a class just up and left while I was mid-sentence :( Awful!) I’ll get over it soon :)

I’ll definitely be blogging my marketing & teaching efforts.

Jason High 2011-01-20 Reply

Hi Alevtina,

I am a trainer at RefWorks and I saw your post. I’m glad to see your efforts to promote RefWorks usage. Maura and others who responded to the ILI listserv thread make a good point – showing how it creates bibliographies at the beginning is a good way to capture their attention and answer the “what’s in it for me?” question. It is also good to keep it simple, especially for those that are new to the research process. And if you show how to use it to capture references from the library catalog and other sources you subscribe to, it can drive usage of library resources.

If you’d like some ideas or materials to use such as suggested training outlines and workbooks feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to help! You can reach me at jason.high (at) refworks-cos.com.

Good luck!
Jason High

Alevtina Verbovetskaya 2011-01-20 Reply

I agree, answering the “what’s in it for me?” question is important, especially when most people (especially students!) think they know everything. Grabbing their attention at the beginning of the session with a magic trick will definitely do the job.

Thanks, Jason! :)

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